Life of a Resettlement Intern (Working with Refugees)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Happy to say I just finished up my 3rd week at the IRC. My usual work week looks like Monday through Thursday from 9 to 3/4pm. Gonna give an insight to what a usual week looks like. (This is with resettlement, outside the iron curtains all kinds of classes are being held)

Monday: client day! As you know, I work with case managers. On client day, a clipboard goes out in the main lobby at the reception desk and our clients have the opportunity to sign up for a 15 minute time slot to meet with their case manager. We usual begin seeing our clients around 11:30. Before that, we kind of just do anything that needs catching up from the weekend or taking care of things that a possible client coming in may need. We have lunch around 1:30. & what we do after, really depends on the list. Our clipboard has slots till 3:30 maybe we will have 4 clients that day and finish before lunch or are all filled up AND running late on time. It's a hit or miss.

Tuesday: for us it is intake day. If you read about my first day you'd know this is where we hold an orientation for newly arrived clients. They usually arrive on a Tuesday, and the following Tuesday (after a week of rest) they are brought to the IRC where they spend the day here listening to the different departments (meet their case managers aka resettlement, employment, education) introduce our responsibilities towards them and what is expected of them. It is also the day they apply for government assistant (food stamps etc).

Wednesday: this is kind of a slow day, or a catch up day. Make doctors appointments, fix insurance issues, file, write case notes, lots of different phone calls!! Just taking care of all the background things. I just do whatever my case manager needs me to do. Like I said, clients usually arrive on Tuesdays and we are required to do 24hr visits. So that'll land on Wednesdays. I may get sent on any day to take someone to an appointment or drop something off somewhere. I am getting really familiarized with the area. We may have to set up a request for an interpreter if they don't speak English well or at all. We have many diverse cases. Clients are from Iraq, Bhutan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Pakistan, but we are seeing a lot of clients from Burma at the moment. They can be single cases or families with multiple members. They can also be categorized by having or not having a family tie in the US.

Thursday: this is also client day (my favorite days BTW) but we begin at 12pm. Same idea as Mondays. Our clients come in to talk to us about their apartment or living situation, to see if their SS cards, employment cards, insurance cards, etc have arrived. Request doctor, dentist, or specialty appointments. Renew and activate food stamps, RCA cards, etc. Get updates on their financial situation. And overall get more direction on their next steps for an established and successful life.
I'm not at the office on Fridays, but it is definitely a laid back and casual kind of day. I imagine it has a Wednesday schedule.

I will not lie, I feel I have a headache on a daily basis, but I know its all me stressing myself out for no reason. Hoping to get out of that habit soon.
I was inspired to write this post mostly about the case managers I work with. In the little resettlement row, we have five. Two women and three men. This is so cheesy but I feel I am inspired everyday. This is the perfect work environment for me, being surrounded by these people. Two are White Americans. One is from Iraq, another from Burma (if I am not mistaken a former refugee), and someone from Rwanda. I love all these people. Our Burmese case manager speaks 8 languages (including Chinese, Malay, Nepali, Japanese, Burmese (& prob multiple dialects)). I believe our Rwandan CM (who BTW i believe left Rwanda AFTER the genocide) speaks Kinyarwanda, Swahili, French, amongst others. Our Iraqi speaks Arabic. Another CM speaks Korean, Spanish, some French, and multiple words and phrases in multiple languages. The particular CM I work with only speaks English fluently, but has lived/visited places like Nepal, Panama, Georgia, and Mozambique. Today at lunch I heard them talking about how much of an influence some of the people who work at the IRC are in their ethnic communities. For example at the restaurant we ate at we mentioned one of the CM and they were like yes we know them! Then they spoke about how much of an icon another manager is and how she pretty much was a rebel leader and put Bhutan on the map for the UN to recognize them as having conflict and allowing them to ask for refugee status.
I think working with people with such diverse experiences and backgrounds really inspires me to go after who I want to be. I feel these are the people I want to surround myself with because we share the same goals and respect and understand each other. I am thankful to get along with all of them and have asked one of the CM to speak in French with me so I can practice and learn a bit more. On Monday I will speak to our Iraqi CM and ask him to teach me a bit of basic Arabic daily to prepare for my fall plans. :)

We also do a lot of fun things at the IRC, Monday we had a movie night, today I had lunch at a Burmese restaurant and had Burmese tea, it was really good considering I am not a fan of tea. Super sweet. We also have IRC soccer for anyone who wants to go every Thursday at 5:30pm. A new lady went and saw I had a ~Mash'allah~ bumper sticker, and casually asked me if I spoke Arabic and said no. She then asked the guy next to her if he spoke Arabic and he said yes and she said me too. They're both white, and not that white people can't speak a foreign language LOL, but it's so awesome how you can casually ask someone else in this setting if they speak a specific language and not be surprised.
I really love it there and I am so thankful to be working WITH and FOR the people I do. Like I said, hoping for some career direction!

Also, counting down the days! & Ramadan Kareem

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